New York wrongful termination lawyers know that our state, like much of the nation, has a policy of “at-will” employment. But we also know that this does not really mean what many people think it does. There are times when your employer may not lawfully end your employment.
Yes, traditionally, employers in the US have had the ability to discharge workers for any reason, in the absence of an express employment contract stating otherwise or law making it illegal. For instance, an employer may fire an at-will worker for stealing something even if the worker did not actually steal it. But an employer may not fire someone because of their race – Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and New York State Human Rights Law make it unlawful to do so.
Over the years, several exceptions to the at-will doctrine have emerged and been enforced by courts across the country. Breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith, discrimination, and violation of public policy can all give rise to wrongful termination claims. There are variations from state to state so it is important to know the rules in New York and how they apply to you and your cause of action.
If your employer discharged you for questionable reasons, you might wish to speak with an experienced New York wrongful discharge attorney at Leeds Brown. Many terminations feel unfair or wrong, but not all of them are unlawful. It may be difficult to appreciate the difference when you are the victim. Let us know the facts surrounding your discharge and together we can help determine whether or not you have a claim against your employer. If so, you may be able to recover monetary damages or receive reinstatement.
At Leeds Brown, our New York wrongful termination attorneys have been representing hard working residents of this state and across the nation for decades. It is our mission to help employees enforce their rights to fair and equal treatment and wages. We take a hands-on and collaborative approach to all of our cases. This team-based approach allows us to provide outstanding service to our clients and deliver great results.
In New York State, there are several common circumstances when terminating an employee violates the law and may give rise to a wrongful termination claim.
Breach of contract – If you are a union member with a union contract or a non-union worker with an employment contract you agreement likely outlines many protections against discharge. Most union and employment contracts limit the right of an employer to terminate an employee. For instance, your contract may state that you may only be fired “for cause” which can include various reasons specific to your agreement.
Breach of implied contract – In some jobs, employees receive a manual which sets forth procedures or terms under which an employer may terminate employment. For example, an employee manual may state that an employee with poor performance for two consecutive quarters will receive a warning letter and job counseling followed by an evaluation hearing before being terminated.
Occasionally, a court will determine that an employee manual creates an implied contract and entitles the employee to all of the protections therein. If your discharge violates the terms of an implied contract, you may be entitled to file a wrongful termination claim and collect lost wages or receive reinstatement to your job.
Whistleblowing – An employee who gets fired for being a “whistleblower” can sue for wrongful termination. The term whistleblower refers to an employee who reports illegal activities to a supervisor or government agency.
An employee who reports a violation which “creates and presents a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety, or who gets fired for refusing to participate in such conduct” may have a wrongful termination claim. For example, if you report discrimination, health and safety violations, or refuse to dump waste in an illegal location, and your boss fires you, you may have a valid case against your employer.
There are various statutes that protect whistleblowers from retaliation. In New York, for instance, worker’s compensation law explicitly prohibits an employer from terminating an employee because he or she filed a workers compensation claim. The Civil Rights Act prohibits an employer from firing someone for filing a discrimination charge with the EEOC.
Lawful, political and recreational activities – An employer may not fire an employee for engaging in lawful political or recreational activities outside of work. Doing so may give rise to a wrongful termination claim.
Statutory Violations – In addition to federal statutes making discrimination illegal, NYS and New York City have their own anti-discrimination statutes. New York law states that an employer may not lawfully terminate an employee because of his or her gender, race, religion, national origin, age, marital status or disability. Also, in New York City, employers may not discharge an employee because of his or her sexual orientation, arrest or conviction record, partnership status, or status as a victim of domestic violence, stalking, and sex offenses. Employers may not lawfully discharge an employee for reporting discrimination or refusing to participate in discrimination.
Jury duty, military leave, voting – Your employer may not terminate your employment because of your need to fulfill certain civic obligations.
While at-will employment is the general rule, the exceptions are important to ensure that employers do not violate laws and workers can enforce their rights to fair wages and a safe workplace. Public policy is best served by encouraging employees to be dutiful citizens, to report unlawful or dangerous conduct and to refuse to engage in illegal acts without fear of retaliation. The exceptions to at-will employment exist to support these positive actions. Protecting employees who witness or feel pressure to participate in illegal activities promotes respect for the law by employers and encourages lawful behavior.
The exceptions also enable employees to protect themselves and enforce their rights, without fear of retaliation from employers. Knowing there is recourse may encourage reluctant employees to speak up in the face of wrongdoing.
By speaking with New York wrongful termination attorneys and filing a claim, an employee may be able to recover lost wages or punitive monetary damages if he or she is fired for an unlawful reason. An employee may also be entitled to receive reinstatement.
New York wrongful termination attorneys at Leeds Brown have decades of experience representing clients in cases against their employers and can recognize when someone violates the rights of an employee. If your employer discharged you for reporting harassment, discrimination or other illegal activity, protect your rights by speaking with our lawyers. If your employer fired you without following the protocol outlined in your employee handbook, or in violation of an express contract, the wrongful termination attorneys at Leeds Brown could help determine the best way to proceed to secure the outcome you seek.
Whether you wish to recover monetary damages for lost wages or reinstatement, speak to New York wrongful termination lawyers at Leeds Brown today. Someone is here to take your call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Call 1-800-585-4658.